The Future of Conferences and Coming Together

The Future of Conferences and Coming Together

A message from Clayton Windatt, Executive Director of ARCA

The Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference/La Conférence des collectifs et des centres d’artistes autogérés (ARCA) has been working hard towards building opportunities and infrastructures that have supported the artist-run centre sector for more than 16 years. A significant component of these is the simple act of gathering around issues to form community together between peers, and to establish the service and advocacy needs of the milieu. Since its inception, it has been ARCA’s role to support the implementation of a national conference within a regional/local context through partnership. Our most imminent gathering was planned as part of the Lands to Travel Through conference online, organized by our member-partner, the Alberta Association of Artist-Run Centres (AAARC). As the conference was recently cancelled by AAARC, we will not be gathering at this time.

We at ARCA are shaken by this decision and feel deeply for those affected both directly and indirectly and encourage healing and community building between spaces and people. ARCA will be working with many groups and individuals on the ground in Calgary and Edmonton to explore options together and understand what community building and healing can occur. We also want the many artist-run centre communities across Canada to continue finding ways to gather and have started to consider how ARCA can bring these communities together digitally in the near future.

ARCA acknowledges many ongoing community conflicts taking place in the arts scene as being complex and affecting many spaces and artists. Although the nature and origins of these conflicts vary, the lack of capacity to collectively respond to the needs of the arts community is becoming more obvious with each instance. Artists need transparency in their relationships and organizations need resources and tools in order to provide healthier spaces for artists. During the COVID-19 pandemic many aspects of working in the arts have been challenged. Beyond the threats to our personal health that COVID represents we have all suffered from a major upheaval in our work and social lives as we follow health restrictions, social distancing, and for many, isolation. All of this during a time when many communities have responded to tragedies, deaths, injustices and have fought for their rights as people.

Acknowledging the climate in our collective worlds and being responsive to changes in our circles of communication, ARCA looks to the rest of 2021 and our future. We wish to gather people to reaffirm existing connections between peers and establish new pathways for respectful interactions between communities. Although our intentions remain the same as before, we are changing our methodologies and responding to our times.

In the coming months ARCA will be announcing new employment and training opportunities, digital contact events, tool developments and information sessions that will provide opportunities for artist-run centres to help shape our pathway forward. These actions will directly respond to the needs of the artist-run centres and our various communities throughout many regions across Canada. This includes the launch of ARCA’s revised strategic plan, our new “What is an Artist-Run Centre?” promotional and educational film and the launch of our print-based and online Silver Guide to Non-Monetary Transactions.

During this time, ARCA will be reflecting on the needs of this sector and working towards creating spaces of respectful discourse as we imagine and reimagine the intersecting points within contemporary Artist-Run Culture including Visual Culture, Performance and Gallery Culture and their collective proximity to all aspects of our individual lives and overall societal shifts. We will be exploring these issues through many channels including our networks, boards, membership and through various community consultations and digital activations seeking insights on how to ensure respect, agency, autonomy and the rights of artist, arts workers and audiences. 

The remainder of this year will have small digital activations conducted by ARCA allowing us to reach out and engage with our peers as we plan for 2022. We are optimistic about gathering in person again and how re-establishing our contact events within physical locations will help our collective communities heal from the events of the previous two years. Please check back with us often and look for more announcements coming soon. 

Thank you for your patience and consideration,

– Clayton Windatt 

Executive Director, ARCA